Competing rallies between pro-Hong Kong and pro-China demonstrators took over the entrance to a Vancouver SkyTrain station Saturday afternoon as police tried to keep a path clear for pedestrians.
Hundreds of people, some in black and others in red, lined up on either side of the entrance to the Broadway-City Hall Canada Line station, chanting slogans and waving flags and signs.
In a back-and-forth exchange that lasted several minutes, the pro-China supporters shouted “One China” in unison, while the pro-Hong Kong supporters called out “Two systems.” Both sides claimed to love Hong Kong, and it was difficult to determine which group was shouting “We love Hong Kong” at various times.
While there were loud confrontations and bursts of angry yelling, there appeared to be no physical confrontations as police tried to keep the two sides apart.
Pro Hong-Kong protester Eddie Lau said he grew up in China, but fled with his family as a young child. He called China an “evil regime.”
“This is a matter of conscience,” he said. “Canada has to stand up to what China is doing to its own citizens.”
But pro-China protester Nicholas Wang said the conflict has been mischaracterized by the media.
“We’re here to support Hong Kong and China,” he said. “We’re family. They’re part of us.”
Vancouver police had extra officers in place to monitor the rallies, which began at 4 p.m.
A political expression permit issued to the pro-China group Friday by the City of Vancouver said the protesters must comply with city bylaws and in no way “jeopardize the safety and comfort of others.” The protest cannot block building entrances or the “free movement of pedestrians.”
Recent protests in Hong Kong and Australia turned violent. On social media, some worried the Vancouver protests could also escalate.
Vancouver police Const. Jason Robillard said police were monitoring information about the rallies.
“We have additional resources in place, and we are prepared to address public safety issues should they arise,” he said in an email. “We will continue to monitor the gatherings throughout the day.”
A pamphlet circulated by the pro-China supporters and translated for Postmedia News asked participants to remain calm and refrain from creating verbal and physical confrontations, before adding “treat those brain dead wasted youth as invisible.”
There have been competing rallies in other countries as well. On Friday, violence broke out at a rally in Melbourne, Australia when pro-China supporters arrived at a rally planned in solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong. Videos posted on social media showed people pushing each other before being separated by police.
The unrest in Hong Kong began in June in opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill and have since grown to include broader demands.
In Hong Kong on Saturday, thousands of school teachers joined the 11th weekend of anti-government protests. A pro-police rally also drew large crowds. Another massive demonstration is planned for Sunday.